Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Moving Forward After Educon

Educon refined my lens and palette for teaching.  I find myself facilitating learning with greater awareness of the learners in front of me after attending the three-day conference in Philadelphia.

I also find myself missing the rich discussion, problem solving and passion that leads so many Educon educators.  The construct of school often doesn't lend itself to those conversations.  That's not all bad since I'm happy to have the time to apply the knowledge to best teach my students. There needs to be a balance of reflection, learning and practice for best effect.

What's next?

In a collaborative fashion, we've restructured our reading workshop groups and focus to better meet students' needs.  This is the first week of our new structure. Students and teachers are getting used to the new patterns as individuals, small student groups, and teacher led groups meet to read and discuss books.  As Ellin Oliver Keene suggested, we're giving students lots of time to practice reading and discuss books. From a teaching point of view, this area of the curriculum calls me to work towards finesse with regard to helping students choose just right books and engage in dynamic conversations that build understanding, discussion and a thirst for more.

Today, I met with a couple of boys to discuss George Washington Carver's biography--their interest and questions related to the time period and individuals in the story were wonderful and led us in a variety of directions.  Earlier in the day, my student teacher led the students in an inferencing lesson with a story about an Egyptian Muslim family who immigrated to the United States fostering further discussion and understanding related to our family history/immigration unit. Together students and teachers will work to build reading fluency, comprehension and enjoyment as the school year moves forward.

In math and science, we'll continue to tackle concept after concept in multiple ways including hands-on, paper/pencil, tech connection and content integration. We'll focus on teaching students how to grasp and learn skills using multiple tools available and habits of a good student i.e. asking questions, collaboration and content creation.

Project Based Learning includes the creation of our open ended Immigration/Family History Museum.  Our grade level team is working closely to coordinate this work by sharing information and tools.  We're also planning a coordinated Family History/Immigration Museum Open House as our culminating unit project.  The Museum will showcase students' individual exhibits including stories, facts, images and artifacts from their family history and country(s) of origin. I hope to develop this project further using a new learning design template based on brain-friendly, inquiry based learning principles.  I'll post about that soon.

Overall, I'll continue to think about a theme at Educon which was "More of them, less of us" meaning with every lesson and activity, students should be the most active.  They should be the ones doing most of the talking, creating, decision making, teaching and sharing as that's how real learning happens.